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Duties of a Republic’s Citizenry

Duties of a Republic’s Citizenry

[Something Deeperism Institute]

[NYC Journal – Politics Page]

[Editor’s Note: This essay is included in First Essays and A Readable Reader, available for sale on the Buy Our Books! tab of this blog.]

If you have the good fortune to live in a representative democracy, your should work with your fellow citizens to keep an eye on the rulers of your land. Sure: engage in the policy debates of your day. But don’t let those debates and the oft accompanying excitations and divisions separate you from your most fundamental duty: serving as a final check on madness and corruption. To the degree we let our leaders sacrifice good-government (open, honest, fair, without favoritism or bias following the laws, rules, and protocols) for political expediency, we let corruption and madness in.

What is corruption? Indifference to the basic rules of right thought and action: awareness, clarity, honesty, accuracy, competency, selflessness, kindness, generous fearless overflowing joyfulness. What is madness? Incompetency as regards those same basic rules. Corruption and madness encourage each other, are interrelated, and generally go hand and hand. To the degree madness and corruption rule, it is easier to succeed and/or gain and keep power while being bad (dishonest, underhanded, cruel, foolish, selfish, arrogant, incompetent, clueless) and harder to succeed and/or gain and keep power while being good (honest, transparent, kind, wise, selfless, humble, competent, aware). To the degree we let madness and corruption in, we let folly rule; to that degree, we harm ourselves and others.

Madness and corruption (in either an individual’s conscious space or within a group or organization) is when decisions come not from clear, honest, informed, accurate, competent, kind, thoughtful consideration; but rather from confused, dishonest, clueless, incompetent, cruel, mindless violence. It’s maybe sometimes kind of fun to watch movies about gangsters and rulers weaving their way through corrupt states; but it is neither fun nor helpful to live under such conditions; and it is beyond reckless to let politicians reduce the openness, honesty, accuracy, clarity, competence, and good-will in our government.
“They’re all the same!” There is no perfection, but there are better and worse directions; and if we are not consciously engaged and gently pushing towards the better, we are sliding towards the worse and/or risking chaos — which is itself a worse, and out of which generally arises a much worse.

“It’s all the other side’s fault!” OK, then, stop talking to them: that will help us to all better fulfill our shared responsibility to our shared nation. (No it won’t; that was sarcasm; not sure if one can use that in a serious essay; maybe it’s OK now that we’ve clarified that it is not meant seriously, but rather to point out the hopelessness of taking it seriously / at face value. Blame may not be divided equally in all conflicts, but when does shutting yourself off from a sizable portion of a shared democracy ever help the situation?)

“The history and/or structure of this nation is such that it cannot but destroy itself, and that’s what it deserves anyway!” Wait!: at least from this merely-human vantage, there’s no a priori knowable rule for the way history must unfold; and if this ship sinks, we all go down with it, drowning in the same old stupid boring vortex of cruel chaoses birthing cruel orders birthing cruel chaoses … ; so let’s work together to acknowledge where we’ve been, where we are, and where we want to get to; and to simultaneously seek a newer world together.

I mean:

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.*

There’s only one hope: let wisdom rule.

And we all know what wisdom looks like: aware, honest, clear, competent, accurate, kind, selfless, sharing joy, knowing how to help and putting that knowledge into action. Let’s think, speak, act, and vote accordingly.

This public service announcement paid for by:
The Community For A Better USA: Come, On, Let’s Succeed Together For Real: From The Inside Out!

And Again Our Refrain:
Everything in its place: We don’t need to agree on worldviews to agree that none of our worldviews means anything to any of us in the absence of clarity, honesty, accuracy, competence, kindness and shared joy.

[Editor’s Note:
*The Lights begin to twinkle …
See Alfred Tennyson’s “Ulysses” (written 1838, published 1842 in the second collection of Poems.]

[Editor’s Note: This essay is included in “First Essays”, available for sale (or free — write us at and we’ll email you a copy) on the Buy Our Books! tab of this blog.]

[Something Deeperism Institute]

[NYC Journal – Politics Page]

[NYC Journal]

I want to quit

I want to quit

I’d give up, but that seems futile.

I’m getting older without a cause. That’s the problem.

If Elizabeth Warren would’ve run for president, all would be well. I could relax while she unified the nation around sensibleness. But that didn’t happen.

But I don’t really understand what is going on. Why are the Republicans so crazy? Why won’t they stop running for office if they hate government so much? Why won’t they admit that we need to build roads and that people on welfare is not what is breaking the budget and that of those the small percent that are gaming the system really are not what is breaking the budget? Why do they keep pretending that cutting taxes is a magical potion? Why have they trapped us all here in this hog pen while they whistle and rodeo us in the mud–pretending that we’re raging bulls and not puny brown-nosed piglets? I am so lonely here! And the weirdest part is that we all know that we need some mixture of free market, regulations, and safety net. We all know that the magical formulas that toss away any one of those is magical thinking. So how can it be that we let the Republicans act like two of those three economic pillars are evil treacheries and the other is God’s mighty hand in creation? And so we are scattered to the wind. Oh Israel! Oh Israel!

When we be a people? When will we share this land and this purpose? Don’t we have a purpose? Don’t we agree at least that the government should avoid making decisions just to appease people and organizations with money to burn? Why are people voting for Trump? What is going on? Will someone please get me out of this dank cellar?! Who locked the door? Who’s flooding the upstairs bathroom? Don’t they know I’m trapped down here? Don’t they care?

I can’t stop the evil. I can’t even figure out what is behind it, where it is, what it is. I feel helpless and stupid. What do I do? Who do I turn to?

AMW and BW, all upset with no place to go

Essayish 5: Proposed Solutions

Essayish 5: Proposed Solutions

Can the dashing author-adventurer Bartleby Willard and his faithful editor Andy Watson get anything done? I dunno, maybe, if they can get the right rhythm going. Maybe they can put together enough sanity and creativity and firestorm and discipline and decency to make something of this project. However, what if their surrounding environment goes to pot? What then?

Many things can go wrong. A small band of haters can gather up chemical weapons or nuclear devices and take out a city or three. Or maybe before too long the world’s dependence on oil and fresh water will create a new cataclysmic strife. Or the pandemic really will come, and everybody will tumble into the sea, to float gently along: bloated sunk-eyed jellyfish who don’t recall their childhood in the scamper town or their grownup life drifting through the signs.

Or here’s a list of other worries I recently made:

We’re going to kill ourselves soon. I don’t know exactly where to fit this in. Categorize it under “First things first”. The US and Russia still full of nukes pointed at each other and around the world; still sliding nuclear submarines around the globe, ready to take out a billion people. And countries around the world still trying to edge their way into the nihilistic world-destroying club while those already in chuckle to themselves, their mountains safely full of doomsday–as if anybody could control doomsday! Oh, and then there’s pumping tortured livestock full of antibiotics; in this way agribusiness avoids the cost of treating animals with a trace of decency while simultaneously creating antibiotic-resistant superbugs. And what’s going on with GMOs? And why didn’t we put the brakes on high risk banking after it cost the world economy gazillions and came close to melting it down into burning paper and overturned streets.

Why don’t we get serious about nuclear disarmament? Why don’t we stop small groups from profiting by putting the rest of us in danger? Clearly the only hope is a growth in wisdom. But what does wisdom look like in the public sphere?

I would like to see an end to the subtle corruption of the USA of my day: The way money buys political ads and accompanying that money flutter lobbyists whispering sweet-somethings into squishy, campaign-fatted ears. But apparently spending money to make people see your propaganda everywhere they turn is equivalent to freedom of speech, which of course we need as a fundamental guard against corruption, and which is therefore duly protected by the very first amendment our forefathers brought forth on this great nation. It is perhaps conceivable that the right to outspend your enemies and therefore more fully saturate everybody’s poor little unsuspecting brain with your psychologically proven mind-influencers is not actually equivalent to freedom of speech. It is conceivable that that was nothing more than an opinion held at one specific time by the majority of nine old sitabouts who–far from being the Form-following philosopher kings that their intelligence, expertise, dedication, advanced age, and freedom from financial or career concerns was supposed to make them–had their own hatchets to sharpen.

But even supposing another set of uppermost judges were to–rightly or wrongly!–reverse the ruling that equates regulating campaign spending with regulating speech (perhaps using an argument that the speech act is one thing and the using power to drench the world in it is another thingNote 1), we’d still all be gathered around our own individual media sources, drinking only the spin that already agrees with our own particular prejudices, getting thicker and thicker in certainty and swagger and louder and louder in indignation and disgust at neighbors who gobble the contrary media.

The real problem is clearly that we’re an evil and depraved people. Except that if you actually meet us, we’re not that bad. We’ve just stopped believing in a shared good, in a larger nation, in beliefs and hopes and goals held in common. We’ve fallen for the lie of Red vs Blue and it is killing us down into the asphalt that the jumpers dent, splatter, and forget.

Perhaps if we began to pull ourselves away from the televisions and computers, and/or we began to demand not journalism that makes us feel like we are already right, but journalism that challenges us. (I know!: The problem with the latter fix is that the underlying problem involves how everyone thinks their opinions are the Truth and it’s the other side who can’t bear to be challenged with the Truth.)

Whatever you are trying for: “truth” or “goodness” or “holiness” or “best current guess” or “decency”–whatever phraseology you use, your deep underlying goal presupposes that life matters and that we can consciously find our way to better and worse ideas and actions (ie: your real motivation is a sense of meaningfulness deeper than ideas and feelings). So though our specific philo-spiritual persuasions vary widely, we all agree that life matters and that with open-hearts and open-minds, we can find our way to truer visions and better actions. Take that common ground seriously and you will see that it implies a shared absolute standard of values. The real Truth is prior to our ideas and feelings about Truth, but each of us has the same inner sense: this is the truth from which we can begin: this is the truth from which real commonwealth can beginNote 2): admit that the Truth is in each of us: we all know very well that life matters, that people matter, that we need to treat one another with respect and dignity. We don’t just think that or feel that, we know it, and it is this deep knowledge, deeper than the assumptions out of which we’d build our doubts about the authority of this knowledge, that binds us.

We need to start seeing that we have enough in common and that the only things that win in media battles are memes and dramatic swells of self-aggrandizing emotion-puffs. People aren’t soundbites or momentary thrills. They aren’t even complex, well-thought-out ideas and intricate mazes of overlapping and interacting feelings. They are ideas and feelings centered around that indefinable something that motivates and justifies our attempts to use ideas and feelings to find truer and better paths. People win when they treat themselves and others with dignity and actually think and work together; they lose when they reduce the real world to black and white sides and human beings to us or them.

But in case we don’t straighten up and fly right, I’ve got another plan:

Some scientific genius can come up with some magic dust that will–upon release from a small, square-based, cork-stopped glass flask–instantly fill the world and undo all nuclear weapons all over the world–rendering them all harmless. Another scientific genius can come up with something similar for chemical weapon X and another for Chemical weapon Y. And then we’ll need a scientific genius to release a special bacteria that will make us resistant to all the dangerous ones and a special virus that will keep us safe from the bad ones. And so on. I’m not sure how many scientific geniuses we’ll exactly need, or how we can be sure to keep their inventions from not backfiring and actually making things worse. But at least that’s the plan in a rough-sketch.

Or everyone could do like me and turn into a superbeing that cannot be harmed by anything and that jumps from city to city, from harbor to harbor, from coast to valley, from desert to mountaintop, from the seafloor to the country church. I certainly enjoy this lifestyle and wholeheartedly recommend it for everyone. But for some reason the many–stiff-necked!–drag their feet, make milky-eyed laments and handlebar-frown excuses. They can’t, they don’t know how, they’re just so wretchedly mortal–and on and on. There’s no helping some people!

Author: Bartleby Willard
Oversight: Andy Watson

Copyright: Andy Watson
Note 1: This idea originated in the idle conversation of WAP co-founder and -leader Tom Watson, co-chief of the implausible yet achievable Wandering Albatross Press. On numerous chit chat throughout the continental United States, Tom Watson has expanded at length upon a scholarly legal article that he proposes to write. In this much-promised and little-realized paper, Tom plans on demonstrating the constitution’s ultimate support for campaign finance in the 21st Century and beyond, basing his prodigious future-arguments largely upon the distinction between the freedom to speak and share your opinions and the power to fill the media sea with them. Or so I understand this as yet nonexistent but at least to hear him talk inevitable intellectual, moral, and spiritual achievement. As the unwritten article as yet remains unnamed, for convenience’s sake we will in the future refer to it as “Article I’ll believe it when I see it”.

Note 2: A Literary Allusion: “Villanelle for Our Time” by Frank Scott (Leonard Cohen put music to this poem in his 2004 album “Dear Heather”)

“Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart.” is in F Scott’s poem.

I found the poem, along with a concise and thoughtful commentary by a certain “Max Stephenson, Jr”, professor of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech, here;

It goes without saying that this poem is a favorite amongst Something Deeperists far and wide and near and far.

This piece has been filed under Diary of an Adamant Lover: Essayish.

About this project:

We’re letting Bartleby write his book; we’re even publishing it for him; it is two loosely bound sketchbooks:

(1) Love at a Reasonable Price: Stories of his magically timeless time here at Wandering Albatross Press interspersed with writings from that time or from now but somehow connected to that time–stories about manufacturing, marketing, distributing, and selling Pure Love;
(2) Diary of an Adamant Lover: Stories of his current time here all alone with the quiet squeaking floorboards and the rats thumping in the ceiling: Stories of his cries for help in the ruins of Wandering Albatross Press, the black and dark time after the hope and before the answer. We’re splitting this one into two sections: Biographical (writings that mostly relate the current movements of BW, AMW, and the rest of the WAP gang are ex) and Essayish (writings that mostly stay within a certain thought entertained and cultivated by the author and/or his editor).

Both books sold as they evolve here:
Buy the Books/Chapter
That page also includes a current list of chapters for each book.

Actually, the posts of Diary of an Adamant Lover probably won’t ever require a subscription. Still, with a subscription, you get a nicely ebound eevolving ebook compilation of the writings, and you get a quick buy eye-connecting “Thank you” from AW and BW as they bow their way out of the subway car with nothing but the clothes on their backs and the songs in their lungs.

This blog will consist of extracts from the book’s chapters as they are released into the lumiferous aether. You can buy BW’s book as he writes it here. You can also consider this blog a long advertisement for Wandering Albatross Press’s some-such-several wonderful products; like . You can also view this blog as it’s own thing–a good unto itself–and as such a sweet, chaste little kiss running through the infomaterous aether (the theory of a lumiferous ether through which electromagetic waves move is no longer widely accepted and its originators all long dead; it is very much in the public domain and so publishing houses, such as the beautiful WAP, can use it any way they please). But insofar as this is a commercial venture, we still need it fundamentally grounded not in profit-motive, but in kind delight. So cross your fingers for us; say a prayer for us; keep a gentle but stern, a wary but hopeful eye on us. Help us to try. Or at least let us try.

Author: Bartleby Willard, fictional character

Copyright holder/editor: Andrew Mackenzie Watson (of the Sand Springs Watsons)